Garnishee orders are a last-ditch resort for creditors to get back the debt owed to them. While they aren’t as common today as they were a few years ago, they are still a reality for many South Africans.
What is a garnishee order?
A garnishee order is when a creditor applies at a Magistrate’s Court to deduct money from your salary before you receive it. It means the debt repayment will take place without your say. A garnishee order is a legal and valid resort for creditors to claim any debt.
Only courts close to your home can issue a garnishee order, and a magistrate must sign it. This is to stop creditors from unlawfully trying to have garnishee orders pushed through without your presence or knowledge.
Facts about garnishee orders in South Africa
While the idea of a garnishee order may be scary, there are facts you need to know about your rights and what an order like this can claim. We’ve answered a few of the most popular questions about garnishee orders and what you can expect.
- How long is a garnishee order valid: A garnishee order will be valid until you’ve finished off your debts, or you can negotiate the length of the order via a debt counsellor.
- How much of my salary can a garnishee order claim? Previously, garnishee orders could be as high as what a creditor wanted. This meant a large portion of your salary could be removed before it ever reached you, leaving those in debt without any money to live on throughout the month. A law was passed in 2019 that stopped this from happening. Now, a garnishee order can only be as much as 25% of your salary. However, if the order is more than that or you can’t live on the remaining 75%, you can appeal the ruling in court.
- Is there a limit to what I’m required to pay? Creditors can claim legal costs and commissions as part of the garnishee order, but there are limits. For example, if the debt is worth R5 000, the extra costs cannot be more than R5 000. This law and the restriction of only claiming 25% of your salary at a time means that you are somewhat protected from exorbitant debt claims.
- Will a garnishee order follow me to a new job? The garnishee order in place is for your current job only. If you resign or change employers, you will need to inform your creditor, and a new garnishee order will have to be issued. Always ensure the garnishee order is valid and has the correct employer’s name.
- Is it possible to stop a garnishee order? If you can prove that the garnishee order debt is illegal or invalid, you can stop the order from being issued. However, debt counselling can help you prevent or negotiate the order to switch your payments to a loan repayment agreement. So avoiding a garnishee order is the best idea.
When the garnishee order is in place, even if the creditor decides to accept loan repayments, the creditor will have to apply to end the order. The creditor can also inform your employer that the garnishee order is no longer required.